Living in China, I was not surprised today by this headline: Recession Elsewhere, but It is Booming in China. Some of the details though took me back a bit. Like this–
For the first time, Chinese will buy more cars this year than Americans. Demand is so high that drivers put their names on long waiting lists for the most popular models.
And it is not just cars. For more and more consumer goods, China is surpassing the United States as the world’s biggest market — from cars to refrigerators to washing machines, even desktop computers.
Not really so surprising when you remember that China has four times the U.S. population, and surprise is dampened even more when you see that Americans are still spending more money for all that stuff, the Chinese buying greater numbers of cheaper cars and appliances, and–
Total consumer spending in China is still less than a sixth of American consumer spending at current prices and exchange rates. That is mainly because China has relatively few restaurants, hotels and other service businesses, even as sales of manufactured goods have risen.
Chinese consumer spending has risen, but savings rates are still around 40%.
Meanwhile, recent stories out of Copenhagen and the climate talks there include statements from both China and the US accusing each other of not going far enough with their proposals and not living up to past commitments. Maybe sacrificing some of this rampant consumerism would make it lots easier to meet a target of lower emissions.
And I would not mind seeing fewer cars on the streets either. I commute on a bike every day, rain or shine, and it is getting harder to dodge the cars–especially when they drive on the bike lane.